With the impending launch of the new Toyota Supra (2018 Toyota Supra) we thought it would be a good idea to do a buyer’s guide for arguably the most famous Supra, the Mk4. The new Supra looks to be a real winner, but it was the Mk4 that sent the Supra name to the stratosphere.
For this Toyota Supra buyer’s guide we are first going to run through a bit of history and specifications of the car, so if you already know about the history of the Mk4 feel free to skip on ahead.
The History & Specs of the Toyota Supra Mk4
Japan’s motor industry experienced a period of incredible success from the late eighties to the late nineties. It was a period of exciting, world beating cars that would go onto become one of the most memorable periods of motoring. Toyota’s rivals launched magnificent cars like the FD-series Mazda RX-7, the Nissan GT-R and the Honda NSX.
To keep in play with their competition Toyota decided that it was time to launch a new version of their Supra range. Following the end of the Mk3’s production in 1992, Toyota launched the Mk4 Supra at the 1993 Chicago Motor Show. This had been in development for four years by the time of launch, under the guidance of Toyota’s chief engineer, Isao Tsuzuki, who had also worked on both generations of the MR2 and the Celica.
The Mk4 Supra was a bold new move for Toyota and the car’s flowing design shared more in common with the 2000GT of the sixties than its predecessor. With its long, low bonnet and optional-high-rise spoiler the Mk4 Supra was aerodynamically efficient and oozed performance.
Compared to the outgoing car, the Mk4 Supra was shorter, lower and wider, while being 100kg lighter. The weight saving was down to Toyota using lighter materials and they even used hollow carpet fibres to save a few grams!
Powering the Mk4 was either a naturally aspirated or twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre JZ-series straight six engines that offered anywhere from 220bhp to 326bhp (Japanese manufactures at the time limited the horsepower of their cars to 276bhp). The top-spec turbo offerings were mated with Toyota’s first six-speed gearbox that meant the Supra could now offer supercar like performance.
In its turbocharged form the Supra could achieve 0-60mph in as little as 4.6 seconds and could hit nearly 180mph. Japanese models were limited to 112mph (180km/h), while export models could hit 155mph (250km/h) before the limiter stopped them going any further.
Rather than making the turbos operate in a parallel mode, Toyota designed them to be sequential. This resulted in boost and enhanced torque as early as 1,800rpm. At 3500 rpms some of the exhaust gases are sent through the second turbo for a “pre-boost” mode and at 4000rpm it kicks in properly.
While the turbocharged version of the car received the new V160 gearbox, the naturally aspirated versions had to make do with a five-speed manual W58 gearbox, which was revised from the previous car. Each model of the car was also offered with a four-speed automatic with a manual shifting mode.
With the Mk4 Supra, Toyota went to new lengths to save weight. They used aluminium for the bonnet, front cross member, the suspension upper A-arms, the oil and transmission pans, and the targa top (when that was fitted). Toyota also used hollow carpet fibres, a magnesium-alloy steering wheel and a whole host of other lightweight parts to shed any excess weight off the car.
By the late nineties, sales of sports coupes like the Toyota Supra were declining rapidly in North America. This meant that the car was withdrawn from the Canadian market in 1996 and the United States market 1998. Despite this, production of the Supra continued in Japan until August 2002 and was only stopped due to new restrictive emissions standards.
Toyota Supra Mk4 Specifications
|Model||Supra (SZ, SZ-R)||Supra Twin-Turbo (RZ-S, RZ, GZ)|
|Year of production||April 1993 – August 2002||April 1993 – August 2002|
|Layout||Front-engine, rear-wheel drive||Front-engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Engine/Engines||3.0-litre 2JZ-GE Inline 6||3.0-litre 2JZ-GTE Inline 6 – Twin Turbocharged|
|Power||220 – 225 hp (164 – 168 kW) – depending on the market||280 hp (209 kW) – Japan|
320 hp (239 kW) – Export
|Torque||284 Nm (209 lb ft)||438 Nm (323 ft-lb) – Japan|
458 Nm (338 ft-lb) – 1997 VVTi Japan
427 Nm (315 ft-lb) – Export
|Gearbox||5-speed W58 manual|
4-speed A340E automatic
|6-speed V160 or V161 manual|
4-speed A340E automatic
|Suspension Front||Double wishbone||Double wishbone|
|Suspension Rear||Double wishbone||Double wishbone|
|Brakes Front||2 pot with 296 mm (11.6 inches) rotors||Pre 95 – 4 pot, 296 mm (11.6 inches) – Japan|
Post 95 – 4 pot, 323 mm (12.7 inches) – Japan
4 pot, 323 mm (12.7 inches) – Export
|Brakes Rear||1 pot with 307 mm (12.1 inches)||Pre 95 – 2 pot, 307 mm (12.1 inches) – Japan|
Post 95 – 2 pot, 324 mm (12.7 inches) – Japan
2 pot, 324 mm (12.7 inches) – Export
|Tyres Front||225/50ZR16 (SZ)|
225/50ZR16 92V (SZ from around 1996)
|Tyres Rear||225/50ZR16 (SZ)|
225/50ZR16 92V (SZ from around 1996)
245/50ZR16 (Non SZ models)
|Wheels Front||16x8JJ aluminium||17x8JJ aluminium|
|Wheels Rear||16x8JJ aluminium|
16x9JJ aluminium (Non SZ models)
|Weight||1,410 – 1,510 kg (3,109 – 3,329 lb)||1,490 – 1,570 kg (3,285 – 3,461 lb)|
|Top speed||225 km/h (140 mph)||250 km/h (155 mph)|
|0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)||6.2 seconds||5.3 – 5.7 seconds (depending on market)|
Toyota Supra Mk4 Buying Guide
So now that we’ve gone over a bit of the history of the Toyota Supra, it is now time to get to why you really came here. Buying a Toyota Supra can be a bit of a daunting task. While the car is actually about as bullet proof as a sports car can get, there are some things to look out for. We have listed these below:
Arranging an Inspection of an A80 Toyota Supra
Setting up an inspection is an important part of the used car buying process, especially with something as expensive as a fourth generation Toyota Supra. Below we have listed some things to keep in mind when arranging an inspection:
- Look at the Supra in person or get a reliable third party to do so for you – Buying a used vehicle sight unseen can be a risky thing to do. Try to inspect any Mk4 Supra you are seriously considering buying yourself or get a reliable third party to do so for you. Some auction sites like bringatrailer.com assess the cars on their website prior to putting them up which does reduce the risk of purchasing a vehicle sight unseen quite a bit. If you plan to import a Toyota Supra Mk4 from Japan, we recommend that you go with a trusted importer who can help you with the process (more on that later).
- Try to inspect a particular Supra Mk4 at the seller’s house or place of business – We recommend this as it can give you a good idea of how and where the fourth generation Toyota Supra you are interested in has been stored. You can also get a bit of a look at the type of roads the car is regularly driven on – are they really rough or are they smooth? Bumpy roads with lots of potholes could lead to suspension, wheel or tyre damage.
- If possible, set up an inspection for a time in the morning – This will give the seller less time to clean up any issues such as a big oil leak and they will be less likely to pre-warm the Supra’s engine.
- Take somebody with you – Bringing along a helper is always a good idea, even if they are not that knowledgeable about cars. They can give you their thoughts on the Mk4 Supra you are looking at and they may be able to spot something you missed.
- Avoid inspecting a used Supra in the rain – Water can hide numerous different issues with the bodywork/paintwork, so try to rearrange for a different day if it is raining. If you do happen to inspect a Supra when it is raining, try to go back for a second viewing.
- Be cautious of freshly washed cars – This is largely for the same reason as above, but a seller may have also washed the engine bay and underside of the vehicle to cover up something like an oil leak.
- Inspect the car in direct sunlight if possible – Be careful when inspecting a used vehicle indoors (showrooms, warehouses etc.). The light in these sorts of places can often make the paint look better than it really is and some issues may be covered up.
Steering and Suspension
The Mk4 Supra is a bit of a beast in this area. Toyota essentially over-engineered the suspension and the steering systems of the fourth generation car. Most of the parts are robust and reliable, however, a worn set of dampers will make the car feel uncomfortably wobbly and indirect.
Vibrations through the steering wheel could be something like an out of balance wheel, a damaged tyre or even a bent/warped wheel. Below we have put together a bit of a check list when inspecting/testing the suspension and steering components:
- Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
- Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration – Try launch the car after it has warmed up properly and only if you can find a safe stretch of road.
- Tipping during cornering – especially in higher speed and tighter corners
- High speed instability – does the Supra Mk4 feel floaty or indirect?
- Delayed or longer stopping distances – try some high to low speed runs – how does Supra’s the suspension feel when you come to a complete stop
- Uneven tyre wear (more on this below)
- Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension
- Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
- Sagging or uneven suspension – check that all four corners are level and use a ruler or measuring stick to make sure the height between the top of the wheel and the wheel arch is the same (side to side)
- Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive, especially in tight corners or when going over bumps (this may be caused by something else, but bad suspension and steering componentry is a common issue)
- Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
- Clicking sounds (especially at full lock) – usually a bad CV joint. However, clicking sounds may also indicate something like a bad wheel bearing as well
The issues above could indicate a minor or major issue, so it is important to investigate any problems thoroughly. Remember to visually inspect as many of the steering and suspension components as possible. Watch out for any leaks and check around the CV joints for any splits in the material or excessive amounts of grease. Check to see if the parts match side to side as if they do not you should be asking why (has the Supra Mk4 been in an accident? has it been maintained poorly? etc.). Watch out for any broken components or signs that the vehicle may have been in an accident.
A torch/flashlight and a mirror can come in handy when inspecting all these different components, so bring those tools along.
The Supra Mk4 is getting on a bit now, so many of the suspension elements may be worn. If you are looking at a car with worn suspension you might want to weigh up the cost of replacing it or holding out for a prime model.
A Word on Aftermarket Suspension
More than a few MkIV Toyota Supras have been fitted with aftermarket suspension. This is perfectly fine as long as it is from a good brand such as Ohlins, Koni, Bilstein, KW, etc. Note down the suspension brand and check some reviews/feedback. If it seems like a poor quality brand move onto another Supra as if the owner has cheaped out here they have probably done so elsewhere.
Another thing to keep in mind is that aftermarket suspension can destroy a Mk4’s ride quality, making it feel overly harsh on normal roads. While you may be okay with the harsh ride during a short test drive, it may become annoying on longer journeys. If you plan to use the Supra for track days, you should weigh up the extra cornering performance of aftermarket suspension with the reduced ride quality. Avoid any Supra Mk4 that has been lowered excessively.
One last thing to think about is the originality of the car. The fourth generation Toyota Supra is a serious classic now and a completely original one in good condition will command a higher price.
The brakes on both turbocharged and naturally aspirated MkIV Supras should be more than adequate for road use, so if you feel like they are a bit underpowered or spongy there may be a problem. Squealing or rumbling noises could be caused by a range of different issues with the most likely of them being something wrong with the pads.
Remember to take a good look at the brake calipers, discs/rotors and pads. Watch out for any visible signs of damage and check how much life is left in the pads. A bit of surface rust/corrosion on the discs is perfectly fine if the car has been sitting for a while (should go away after a test drive). Turbocharged Supras manufactured after 1994 have improved four-piston brake calipers at the front (and bigger discs for Japanese models).
If you notice shuddering or shaking through the steering wheel of the Toyota Supra Mk4 you are test driving it may be a sign that discs are warped and need to be replaced. This problem usually becomes first apparent under high-speed braking, so make sure you do a few high to low speed braking runs.
If the fourth-gen Supra you are test driving displays the following symptoms, it is probably a sign that one or more of the brake calipers has seized/is sticking:
- Pulling to one side (may even happen when the brakes are not in use)
- Car feels low on power as if the parking/handbrake is on
- Brakes get extremely hot and produce a distinctive acrid smell and in some cases smoke
- Car won’t move at all in serious cases
- Loud thud-like noise when pulling away for the first time
Another thing to check for is that the ABS system is working as it should. Any problems with the system should set off alarm bells in your head, so watch out for an illuminated ABS warning light. There is a really handy forum post by Ian C on mkivsupra.net that we recommend that you check out if you are experiencing issues. This post goes through a range of different things it may be along with the relevant codes. Some owners will disconnect the ABS light to stop it coming on, so make sure it illuminates when the car starts (ask them why they disconnected it as it may be a simple explanation).
Make sure that the brake fluid is topped up and there are no leaks in the lines (that you can see). The fluid should have been replaced every two years or so with some owners doing it more frequently.
Traction Control Issues
The traction control (TC) should automatically engage when the car is started. Check that the “TRAC” button works as intended (it should say “slip control off” on the dash). Many owners like to drive their Mk4s with the traction control off. Some even go as far as to remove the traction control butterfly so they don’t have to worry about turning it off when they get in the car.
If you are unfamiliar with the engine bay of a Toyota Supra MkIV, we recommend that you check out the video below from Driver’s Therapy, explaining where the different components are:
Overall, the 2JZ fitted to the fourth generation Supra is a bulletproof motor if maintained well. However, just like with any used car, poor maintenance can lead to a whole load of different problems and some expensive trips to the mechanic.
To begin your inspection of a Mk4’s engine, move to the front of the car and open the bonnet/hood. While doing this check that the bonnet goes up smoothly and that the release/catch works as intended. If it doesn’t, it may be a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident.
Take a good general look at the engine bay – does it look clean? Are there any modifications? Do you see any stand-out problems straight away?
A completely spotless engine bay is probably a sign of a fastidious owner, however, it may also be a sign of somebody who is trying to cover something up like a big oil leak.
Checking the Fluids
This is something that a lot of people often forget to do when inspecting a used car, but we feel like it is a vital step in the process. If the fluid levels are too low or high, or the fluids have not been changed in a long time it is a sign that the Supra Mk4 you are looking at has been poorly maintained.
If you notice any metallic particles, dirt or grit in the engine oil or on the dipstick it is a sign of some serious issues. Froth is another problem as well, but we will cover that in more detail down below. Another thing to watch out for is any sludge build-up when you open the oil filler cap (there shouldn’t be any).
Talk to the seller/owner about their Supra’s service schedule and check the service history. Ask them what oil, oil filter and other service parts have been used as the wrong components could possibly damage the motor.
The service interval states that the oil and oil filter should be replaced every 6,000 km (3,750 miles) for NA models and every 4,000 km (2,500 miles) for 2JZ-GTE equipped Supras. Modern synthetics have a significantly longer service interval, so don’t be too concerned if the owner has changed the oil every 10,000 km (6,000 miles) or so with one of those oils. If you do purchase the car and want to know how long the oil can last, we recommend that you send it off to a lab to be tested. They will come back and tell you if the oil can go further or needs to be changed more frequently. The oil filter should have been replaced with every oil change, so make sure that has been done.
If the Supra you are looking at has not been driven much, the oil and oil filter should have been replaced every 6 to 12 months (dino/non-synthetics should be replaced at six months).
Are There Any Common Oil Leak Areas on a 2JZ?
With the age of these cars, don’t be too surprised to find the odd minor oil leak. The main areas to really watch out for are the valve cover (very common), distributor, cam seals, VVTi gear, and the rear main seal. If you are looking at a turbocharged Supra, the turbo oil return line can cause issues as well.
Watch out for oil dripping down the back of the head and collecting on the cross member and the gearbox, as it can be difficult to find the source of the leak.
Valve cover leaks are not usually too much of an issue. Sometimes it may simply be that the bolts and nuts securing the cover to the block have come loose. Alternatively, the gaskets may be worn and need to be replaced – not expensive to do yourself, but a specialist or mechanic may charge you quite a lot.
We wouldn’t worry too much about very minor leaks as the they are quite common on Mk4 Supras. Remember to check for oil leaks both before and after a test drive as that spotless engine bay may not be so spotless after a trip around the block. If you notice puddles of oil underneath the car it is probably best to walk away as if it was a simple fix the seller probably would have got it sorted before putting the car on the market.
Ask About Oil Consumption/Burning
Ask the owner/seller if their Supra MkIV burns or consumes oil between changes. While they probably aren’t going to give you a straight answer if there is an issue, it is always worth asking. The 2JZ engine in these cars really shouldn’t use much oil between changes, so if they respond with quite a lot it indicates a problem. Valve stem seal wear is a common cause of oil burning with these cars, so watch out for any signs of blue smoke from the exhaust tailpipes.
Does the Toyota Supra Mk4 Use a Timing Belt or Chain?
The 2JZ engine fitted to the fourth-generation Toyota Supra uses a timing belt instead of a chain. Luckily, unlike many other timing belt equipped engines, both stock NA and twin-turbocharged engines are non-interference. Toyota did introduce VVT-i versions in the latter part of the nineties, with the naturally aspirated ones of those being interference (however, they were produced in very small numbers, so they are rare to come across).
Depending on what modifications have been done to the engine, the motor in the Supra Mk4 you are looking at may be an interference engine.
While stock engines are non-interference, it is still important to make sure that the timing belt has been replaced at or before the recommended service interval of 96,000 km (60,000 miles). If the Supra you are looking at has not had its timing belt changed at this service interval it should make you question how well the rest car has been serviced. It is generally recommended that you use an OEM timing belt rather than an aftermarket one.
The timing belt should be replaced with the following components at the service interval stated above (or the months stated with each component below):
- Drive belt – every 72 months
- Transmission fluid/oil – every 24 months
- Harmonic balancer
- Fuel filter – every 72 months
- Spark plugs – every 72 months
- Air filter – every 36 months
- Oil and oil filter – every 6 months
- Valve stem seals (not mandatory but worth doing)
Checking the Cooling System
It is important to make sure that the cooling system is in good working order as a problem here could cause serious damage to the engine. Below we have listed some of the main components that make up the cooling system of a Supra MkIV:
- Radiator – removes heat from the water/coolant
- Thermostat – sends water/coolant that is hotter than the target temperature to the radiator to be cooled
- Water Pump – belt that is driven from a pulley. Pushes water/coolant through the engine
- Overflow or Expansion tank – removes air from the system and provides a filling point for the coolant
- Coolant Lines – hoses that allow water/coolant to remain contained as it moves through the engine/cooling system
Inspect around the expansion tank and coolant lines. If the Supra MkIV you are looking at is running a standard intercooler, the coolant expansion tank should be located in the gap between the front bumper and radiator. If the Supra you are looking at has been fitted with an aftermarket intercooler, the expansion tank may have been moved to a new location (commonly next to the window washer bottle).
Check for any crusted coolant or signs of leaks and watch out for any cracks in the expansion tank. Look around the radiator hoses/pipes and check the condition of the radiator itself. If the owner has fitted an aftermarket radiator, find out the brand to make sure it is not a cheapie.
The OEM water pump on 93 to 95 Toyota Supras experienced a number of reliability issues. Toyota’s engineers remedied this with an aftermarket pump that should have been used in all replacements. The updated pump should be good for at least 80,000 km (50,000 miles), so check to see when it was last replaced. Lots of owners replace the water pump when they do the timing belt as it is quite a big job and the labour can be expensive.
It is a good idea to check for coolant leaks both before and after a test drive, along with the coolant level (keep an eye out for any big changes). 2JZ engines are notorious for developing big bubbles in their cooling system, which can lead to a change in the coolant level and overheating issues.
To “burp” the system, the front of the car needs to be jacked up as high as it can, or the front tyres need to be put on ramps. The engine needs to then be left to idle for 2 to 3 minutes with the radiator cap off. If there are air bubbles in the system you should find that the coolant level will drop significantly in the radiator. Once you have done this the radiator can be topped up and the car should be good to go.
Once you have carried out a test drive of a Supra MkIV, turn the car off and wait for around 10 to 15 minutes. Following this, recheck for any leaks and/or fresh puddles of coolant under the vehicle and do a sniff test as well. If you don’t notice any leaks or puddles, but still smell the sweet aroma of coolant, it could be a sign of a leak somewhere in the system.
Signs of Overheating
Below we have listed some signs that may indicate that the Toyota Supra MkIV you are inspecting/test driving is overheating or suffering from some sort of other cooling system issue:
- Temperature gauge on that is on the high side
- Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
- White and milky oil
- Spark plugs that are fouled (if you or probably a mechanic can get a look at them)
- Low cooling system integrity
- Smell of coolant from the oil
- Sweet smelling exhaust
- White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
- Steam from the front of the car
If you notice any of the above (especially a combination), we would be quite cautious. If you suspect there is an issue with the cooling system on the Supra you are looking at, but you are still interested in the car, we suggest that you get a cooling system pressure test done. If there is lots of white smoke and a smell of coolant in the air, walk away.
Make sure you have a good look at the exhaust system for any of the following issues.
- Corrosion/Rust – Shouldn’t really be an issue, but you may find a bit of surface rust. Watch out for any cheap mild steel exhausts as corrosion could be an issue.
- Black sooty stains – This may indicate a leak in the exhaust system. The exhaust is almost certainly leaking if the Supra Mk4 you are test driving experiences poor acceleration, an unusual odour, strange noises that get louder with acceleration, and bad fuel efficiency.
- Damage – Check for any cracks, dents, dings or scratches. Make sure the exhaust is secure and that it doesn’t wobble or move freely.
- Low rumbling, scraping and rattling noises – As mentioned above, strange noises may indicate a leak or some sort of issue with the exhaust (the noises could also be a sign of something else as well).
- Bodge jobs (bad repairs) – Always be mindful of a quick fix that has been done to bring a vehicle up to a somewhat saleable condition.
Both the front and rear catalytic converters can fail/become clogged. This isn’t a specific issue with the Supra MkIV, but it is worth keeping in mind as replacing the cats can be quite expensive, especially if they are sourced from Toyota (note, JDM and some export markets have different cats that are not interchangeable). Below we have listed some signs that the front and/or rear cats have gone bad:
- Smell of sulphur or rotten eggs from the exhaust
- Reduced acceleration and sluggish engine performance
- Excessive heat from underneath the Supra Mk4
- Dark smoke from the Supra’s exhaust
- CEL (Check Engine Light)
- Rattling noise that goes away as the car warms – usually a sign of a clogged main cat or pre-cat, with the sound coming from pieces of the cat that are being blown out into the exhaust piping. This problem can occur if the engine is running too rich. Alternatively, if the Supra is stock it may be from the wrong timing or from letting the car sit at idle for too long.
It is not uncommon for owners to remove one or both catalytic converters when fitting an aftermarket exhaust system. However, it is important to note that if both the catalytic converters are removed it may lead to the car failing emission regulations tests.
If only one catalytic converter is removed a smaller downpipe should be used. Leaving one catalytic converter should allow the car to pass emissions regulations, while allowing it to run at a higher boost (although not as much as if both cats had been removed). If you smell exhaust fumes when coming to a stop, it is probably a sign that the cats have been removed.
The Toyota Supra Mk4 is incredibly popular with tuners, etc. and as such there is a vast array of aftermarket exhausts available for the car. There are simply too many aftermarket options to cover in this guide, so we recommend that you note down the brand/manufacturer and check reviews to make sure the exhaust is a good one. Some of the best exhausts for the fourth generation Supra include the Veilside Ti, HKS Ti, Apexi GT, OBX 3 inch, Blitz, etc.
Turning on a Toyota Supra MkIV for the First Time
It is always a good idea to get the seller/owner to start the vehicle for you for the first time. This is for the following two reasons:
- So you can have a good look at what comes out the back of the Supra’s tailpipes
- If the seller/owner gives the car a whole bunch of revs when the engine is cold you know to walk away
Make sure you turn off and on the Supra Mk4 yourself a few times at a later point during the inspection/test drive. It is also important to check what warning lights come up on the dash during engine start-up and what ones stay on (engine light, ABS, etc.). If no warning lights appear when the key is turned in the ignition it could be a sign that they have been disconnected to hide an issue or there may be some sort of other problem. For example, if the engine light doesn’t come on it may be a sign the ECU has died.
If you notice that a warning light stays on, check what light it is and try to find out the cause of the issue. The problem may not be a simple one to diagnose or fix, so be cautious. Have a look at the video below to see the start sequence of a fourth generation Toyota Supra.
What Should the Idle Speed Be on a Supra Mk4?
Naturally aspirated Supra MkIVs should idle around 650 – 750 rpm, while TT models should idle around 600 – 700 rpm. Expect the idle speed to be quite a bit higher when the engine is cold, but it should drop down as the vehicle warms. Remember to turn on the air conditioning and see how the Supra reacts. A slight increase in idle speed is to be expected when the compressor kicks in.
If the engine stalls or starts to struggle with the air conditioning on, the problem could be caused by a range of different issues from a bad alternator that is on its way out to belt issues or possibly even an ECU fault. Other idle issues may come from something like a dirty IAC and throttle body (usually sporadic idle), bad temperature sensor, coil issues and much, much more. If the idle issue was a simple fix, the owner of the Supra MkIV probably would have got it sorted before putting the car on the market. Alternatively, they may simply not have noticed.
Coil Pack Issues
It is worth pointing out that the coil packs on these cars are a common failure point, so watch out for the following:
- Poor idle
- Noticeable lack of power
- Significant drop in RPMs during acceleration or cutting out for no apparent reason
- An engine that is louder-than-usual (for no reason)
Also check for broken clips on the coil plugs/injector pig tails/cam sensors as this is a common issue.
Engine Mount Issues
With the age and mileage of many of these cars, don’t be surprised to find more than a few of them with bad/worn engine mounts. Here are the main signs to watch out for:
- Clunking, banging, popping or other impact sounds that are a result of engine movement – especially when making sharp low speed turns – often the driver’s side engine mount
- Excessive vibrations
- Engine movement – rev the car and see if the engine moves excessively
This isn’t a specific issue to the Supra MkIV and affects all cars eventually. Some owners do upgrade/change the engine mounts (TRD, Solid, etc.), especially if they are running a bit more power.
Tips for a Test Drive
When you head out on a test drive, we recommend that you open the windows at some point so that you can get a better listen to the engine. Additionally, don’t forget to let the Supra warm up before properly before giving it a load of throttle (but be generous with the loud pedal once the car is up to temperature).
It is a good idea to have somebody follow you while you are test driving a Supra Mk4, as they can check what is coming out the tailpipes (smoke, etc.). If you don’t have a helper it can be a good idea to let the seller drive the car for a bit while you check what is coming out the back (also lets you get an idea of their driving style).
Smoke From a Toyota Supra MkIV
It goes without saying that smoke is usually a bad sign when it comes to buying a used Supra Mk4, however, a little bit of exhaust vapour on start-up is perfectly normal, and is usually caused by condensation in the exhaust.
As we mentioned before, we recommend that you get the seller/owner to start the Supra for you for the first time. Position yourself at the rear of the vehicle and hold up a white piece of paper/cloth in front of the exhaust. Once the seller has started the car, check the paper to see how much soot is on it. Don’t be too alarmed if you see a little bit on a stock car, but if you see lots it could be a sign of an issue.
Excess amounts of soot indicate that the car is running too rich (could be from tuning issues if the Supra is modified) or that there is an oil leak (could be something like the turbo if it is combined with smoke). Removing the cats and running a straight pipe will also lead to more soot, so be mindful of that if you are looking at a Supra MkIV with those modifications. Below we have listed what the different colours of smoke indicate:
White smoke – Lots of thick white/grey smoke from a Supra Mk4’s exhaust indicates that water has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown/leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant. If the smoke is very thick and doesn’t dissipate quickly it could be sign that the block or cylinder head is cracked/broken.
Blue/Grey smoke – If you notice this colour smoke during cold starts or when leaving a stoplight, it is probably the valve stem seals. If it doesn’t stop it is probably the piston rings or may be something else like the turbo seals or casing. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are in the RS Mk3. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back.
Black smoke – This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing, problems with the fuel injectors and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich.
Valve Stem Seals
As we wrote just above, if you notice blue/grey smoke on start up it is probably the valve stem seals (but keep in mind it may also be something else). Bad valve stem seals is a very common issue on these cars and the symptoms are usually more noticeable on a cold start after the car has been parked overnight. Oil seeps past the stem seals and into the inlet tracts, causing the smoke. Symptoms can also appear at wide open throttle, but it should clear up fairly quickly. It is often recommended that you get the stem seals replaced every 100,000 km (62,000 miles) or so, so check when they were last replaced.
Signs of a Failing Turbocharger
Turbos can and will eventually fail, so it is important to watch out for the signs of one that is past its prime. On a stock twin-turbo setup on a MkIV, the first turbocharger should kick in around the 3,000 rpm mark, while the second will spool up at around 4,500 – 5,000 rpm. Make sure that you do get up past these engine speeds to properly test the turbocharger/turbochargers. Below we have listed some symptoms of turbo issues:
Strange rumbling, whistling, whirring or high-pitched metallic sounds – when the turbocharger is at full boost (drive at a slow speed and then accelerate moderately up to high rpms).
Distinctive blue/grey smoke – This often happens when the turbocharger housing cracks or if the internal seals become worn. The smoke will become more apparent when the turbocharger is in use, so get somebody to follow you to check for any smoke.
Burning lots of oil – This one you are probably not going to be able to test for during a short inspection/test drive, but it is still worth asking the owner about how much oil their Toyota Supra burns.
Slow acceleration – Do you feel that the Supra you are driving feels particularly slow? This could be a sign of turbo issues, however, it is important to keep in mind that many of these cars have modifications which increase performance.
If the boost pressure comes on late – Boost pressure that comes at higher than normal rpms could indicate either a worn or unbalanced turbocharger (note the figures we stated above).
Check Engine Warning Light – The check engine light (CEL) can be displayed for a number of reasons, from major to minor. One of these reasons may be due to a failing/failed turbocharger. If the light is on and you notice some of the other symptoms we have listed above, then it is a good sign that the turbo has failed.
As we mentioned above, keep an ear out for any strange whirring or high-pitched noises. If you do hear any such noises it could be the dreaded turbo death whine (listen to the video below to get an idea of what it sounds like).
Other Turbo Things to Consider
It is a good idea to get a test done on the turbo for any boost losses and compression if possible. While the 2JZ engine is a tough old bird, many owners ramp up the boost which can lead to increased wear.
Single turbo conversions are quite a popular modification for those looking to get a bit more out of their fourth generation Toyota Supra. Many owners also do this conversion when the original two turbos eventually give up the ghost. A single turbo will basically allow for greater amounts of power and will give the engine a larger power band when compared to twin turbos. The benefit of the original twin-turbocharger setup is better response on corner exit.
Naturally aspirated Supra MkIVs can be fitted with a turbocharger, but there is quite a bit of work in doing so (not as simple as just bolting it on and away you go). If you are looking at one of these cars that was original naturally aspirated, make sure you find out what work was done and what components were fitted. Additionally, if possible try to find out who did the work and check any reviews/feedback.
Engine Rebuilds & Replacements
An engine rebuild will eventually be necessary given the mileage and how the car has been treated. Don’t be put off by a Supra Mk4 with a rebuilt or replaced engine as it is perfectly fine as long as the work was done by somebody who knows what they are doing. More than a few 2JZ-GE equipped cars have had 2JZ-GTEs swapped into them when it came time for a rebuild.
It is a good idea to ask the seller/owner the reason for the engine rebuild or replacement – was it simply due to mileage? Did they want to fit a turbocharged engine to a naturally aspirated Supra? Was it some sort of other problem?
It is usually best to avoid fresh rebuilds or engine swaps with only a few hundred miles on them. For example, a Toyota Supra Mk4 with 10,000 km (6,200 miles) on a rebuild or replacement is going to be a much safer bet than one with only a tenth of the mileage. Additionally, we would be cautious of a car that has a non-original engine fitted into it (i.e. not the 2JZ-GE or 2JZ-GTE). Some owners have swapped in 2UZ, 3UZ, etc. engines into their Supra MkIVs, but it is a lot more work and there is more potential for things to go wrong. Be very cautious of buying somebody elses unfinished project!
Is a Compression or Leakdown Test Necessary Before Purchase?
While not completely necessary, a compression or leakdown test is usually a good thing to get done prior to purchasing a particular fourth generation Toyota Supra. If you plan to take the car to a mechanic or specialist prior to purchase, you may as well get one of these tests done.
Some owners will get a compression test done before sale and put the results in the advertisement. The most important thing with the results from a compression test is to make sure that they are all roughly the same (within around 10% of each other).
There isn’t too much to worry about when it comes to both the manual and automatic transmissions fitted to the Supra Mk4, but here are some things to keep in mind.
Manual Supra MkIVs
The 6-speed gearbox is undoubtedly the stronger transmission when compared to the 5-speed W58 fitted to naturally aspirated fourth gen Supras. There were two versions of the 6-speed transmission, the V160 and the V161, the latter of which was introduced with the later generation VVTi versions of the MkIV Supra and is a lot harder to come by (these later Supras were not originally sold in the United States).
The V161 has slightly taller gearing making it a closer ratio transmission. It was also given extra ribbing on the side of the rear section of the case, along with the top as well (some later V160 gearboxes featured the extra ribbing as well). Other than that, they are pretty much identical and impossible to distinguish apart from the exterior.
Both the V160 and V161 transmissions can easily handle up to 1,000 hp with no additional work. The W58 is significantly weaker than the 6-speed transmissions and can really only take about 400 – 450 whp before they like to go pop. If you are looking at a naturally aspirated Supra MkIV that is running more power, check to see what work has been done on the transmission.
More than a few naturally aspirated MkIV owners have swapped the R154 manual transmission from the third generation Supra into their cars. This is because the R154 can handle significantly more power than the W58 and is/was significantly cheaper to source.
When it comes to actually testing the transmission and making sure it is functioning correctly, take the car through all of the gears at both low and high engine speeds. You may find that the transmission is a bit stiff when cold, but it should loosen up. Additionally, the manual transmissions fitted to these cars are naturally quite noisy.
Make sure the Supra doesn’t pop out of gear when decelerating or accelerating as this could indicate failure of the synchros. General synchro wear is also a possibility, so check for any graunching or grinding. If the synchro issues seem really bad, except to replace or rebuild the transmission in the near future (not a cheap thing to do on the fourth generation Supra. Higher mileage cars or those that have repeatedly been thrashed are more likely to suffer from synchro wear.
It is also a good idea to check how the transmission performs during hill starts and don’t forget to check reverse as well!
When checking under a Supra MkIV, don’t be too alarmed if you see a bit of oil sludge on the transmission and differential. This is a greasy undercoat that was put on by Toyota themselves.
In the service manual Toyota recommends replacing the transmission fluid every 24,000 km (15,000 miles) or every 24 months (same for auto cars). If the transmission fluid has not been replaced regularly it suggests poor maintenance.
Checking the Clutch
It is important to check that the clutch is in good functioning order as a problem here could leave you with a very expensive bill. Aftermarket clutches are available with some good options from the likes of South Bend and Exedy (often fitted if the car is running more power). The clutch will eventually need to be replaced, so if it has been a long time since it was last changed expect to cough up for a replacement in the near future. However, the life expectancy can vary wildly depending on how the car is driven, etc. Here are some things to watch out for when checking the clutch:
- Clutch Engagement– The first step is to make sure the engagement is good. To do this put the Toyota Supra Mk4 you are inspecting into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. If there is a problem with the engagement height, it is probably something wrong with the master/slave cylinder or it could be air in the hydraulics.
- Clutch Slippage– The best way to test for this problem is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. You should notice that the engine bogs down a bit (don’t do this on a regular basis). The next thing to do is to accelerate. If you notice that the tachometer goes up out of relation to the speedometer and/or you notice jerkiness it suggests that the clutch is slipping.
- Clutch Drag– Get the Supra MkIV on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the car hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.
- Clutch Shudder – This is usually noticeable when you accelerate from a stop. A small amount is perfectly normal, but an excessive amount is a sign that the release bearings need to be lubricated.
If you notice a strange smell (sickly smell) under high load or after acceleration it is probably the clutch. If the clutch is fairly new and you still experience this problem, it may be a sign that the clutch wasn’t broken in when new.
Automatic Supra MkIVs
The stock A340E transmission is okay, but anything above around 270 whp could be problematic. The biggest killer of these transmissions is heat. If the automatic Supra you are looking at is running more power, check to see if the owner or any previous owner has fitted a good transmission cooler. Another good upgrade is a decent shift kit that will help avoid sloppy long shifts under load.
Listen out for excessive or loud clunking noises when shifting, accelerating or lifting off the throttle abruptly as they could be a sign of several different issues from bad engine/transmission mounts to low transmission fluid or something seriously wrong with the internals of the gearbox. Some minor clunking noises are to be expected from the automatic transmission, so do bear that in mind.
Apart from the above, keep an ear out for any grinding, whirring or whining noises. Remember to test all of the transmission positions when stationary, and check how the gearbox acts under both low and high speed shifts. Also check for any big jolts or shudders, and see how the transmission kicks down.
The Supra Mk4’s differential is enormously strong and can handle up to twice the normal power output of the car without completely failing. Depending on where you live, replacement parts may cost anywhere from $600 to over $1,000.
You may hear a clonk when shifting from reverse into first. This was normal even when the cars where new, but if you hear any whining under load that’s when you have trouble.
Body & Exterior of a MkIV Toyota Supra
Body and paintwork issues are always a cause for concern as a problem here could be seriously expensive to fix. Here are some of the main things to watch out for.
Rust/corrosion isn’t as much of a problem on the fourth generation Toyota Supra as some other Japanese cars from its era, but it can rear its ugly head with improper upkeep (often in hard to see areas which makes it worse). The problem is often made worse by the fact that many owners believed (or still believe) that these cars don’t rust and neglected the problem areas. The main areas to watch out for are as follows:
- Behind the sill covers, hockey sticks, side skirts, etc. (unfortunately, the rust here is usually hidden and you need to remove the side skirts, etc. to get a good look)
- Chassis mounts
- Floor pan – jacking locations (if somebody has improperly jacked the car up and caused damage)
- Front crossmember under the radiator
- Tailgate around the glass (quite a big one)
- Rear bumper beam
- Fuel tank guards
- Wheel arches and wells
Along with the main areas above, check the rest of the Supra for rust as well.
What Can Make Rust More Likely to Appear?
- Vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads (UK, northern states, etc.)
- Car has spent time in areas with very harsh winters
- Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
- Always kept outside (never garaged)
- Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage) – this is a big one on the Supra MkIV, especially around the side skirts as stone chips, scuffs, etc. are common here.
- Parts or things rubbing on the bodywork
- Old or no underseal
Looking for Rust Repairs
It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).
Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.
More then a few fourth gen Toyota Supras have been in contact with things they shouldn’t have been in contact with, so take your time checking for the tell-tale signs of accident damage.
Many owners and sellers will lie and try to cover up accident damage. In some cases, people will even claim that their vehicle hasn’t been in an accident when it clearly has. Here are some of the main things to watch out for:
- Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Check that the bonnet/hood lines up correctly and fits as it should. Additionally, check the bonnet catches as if they look new the car has probably been in an accident. You should also check the doors and the lights for any damage or signs of past damage.
- Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Toyota Supra Mk4 you are inspecting may have been in an accident.
- Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust.
- If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the fourth gen Toyota Supra you are inspecting has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).
- Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights – This is very difficult to fix if the car has been in an accident, so watch out for this.
- Bent or broken parts underneath the car – Check to see if everything is straight underneath the Supra MkIV and watch out for any replaced parts. Take a good look at all the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage.
- Rust in strange locations – Is often a sign of crash damage on a Toyota Supra MkIV
- Paint runs or overspray – Could be a factory issue, but more likely due to a respray
- Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).
We feel that accident damage on a Supra MkIV should not necessarily be an instant turnoff, unless the damage was clearly very serious and/or the resultant repairs were very poor. Light to moderate damage that has been repaired by a skilled panel beater/body shop is usually perfectly fine. However, do keep in mind that if the car requires some new body panels they can be expensive to source.
If the owner/seller tries to cover up or lie about the accident it suggests that the problem is worse than first appears. Alternatively, if the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owner the vehicle.
If the Supra you are looking at is fitted with a Targa-style roof, make sure you remove it and check that the seals are in good working order. Sometimes the front driver side bolt that attaches under the visor can get stuck and won’t loosen/tighten. This can be a real pain to remove and will probably involve a whole load of swearing. Toyota did offer a replacement kit if this happened, but we are not too sure about availability now.
A rattling noise from above usually indicates that the Targa roof is loose (on Supras with them). Don’t forget to check that the Targa wrench is also present.
has been wound back) Also check for any rattles, especially from the dashboard. These can be signs that the car has been neglected.
Overall, there isn’t too much to worry about when it comes to the interior in a Toyota Supra MkIV, apart from the usual age/wear related issues. Check that the seats are in good condition and that there are no rips, stains, or excessive amounts of wear. The side bolsters often wear first with the rest of the seat material following later. Make sure the seats have not collapsed and that they do not move during acceleration, braking or cornering as this is incredibly dangerous. Remember to check that all of the seat adjustments work as well.
If you notice excessive wear on the seats, steering wheel, shifter and carpets for the mileage, it may be a sign that the Toyota Supra Mk4 you are looking at has had a hard life and not been looked after properly.
Check for any rattles or creaks from the dashboard area and if the dash itself has cracked it could be an expensive fix. There are repair kits available, but most of the time a replacement dash will be needed. Alternatively, you may be able to get the existing dash reupholstered. Either way, its not going to be cheap.
Make sure you check the interior and trunk/boot for any leaks or dampness. Models equipped with a Targa-style roof are usually more likely to suffer from leaks, but it is a possibility on any Supra MkIV. Inspect around the windows and doors, and don’t forget to check the carpets as well. Turn over the floor mats and if you see any water residue on the bottom it could be a sign of a past or present leak.
Make sure you have a look at the headlining above the driver’s seat. If it is a slightly different colour it may be a sign that the Toyota Supra MkIV you are inspecting has been owned by a smoker. A smell test will also help you determine whether or not this is the case as well.
Electronics, Air Con, Locks, Etc.
Old electronics can be a nightmare and the Toyota Supra Mk4 is certainly no spring chicken anymore. Check to make sure each switch, dial and knob does what it should during a test drive. If noticed a leak, take extra caution as water can really play with the electronics.
Another thing to check is that the air-conditioning and the heater give off colder and warmer air within about a minute of being turned on. If it doesn’t, don’t let the seller convince you it just needs a re-gas as it may be something like the compressor (expensive fix). Ensuring that that the ABS light comes on with ignition and that it turns off when the engine starts is very important.
Apart from that, check that all of the door locks, windows, etc. work as intended. Check to see if the owner has the original keys and if the car is fitted with an immobiliser system, make sure it works as intended.
General Car Buying Advice the for a Toyota Supra MkIV
How to Get the Best Deal on a Supra MkIV
This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.
- Research heavily – Prior to starting your search for a fourth gen Toyota Supra, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage Supra RZ or are you happy with a naturally aspirated model that has travelled far? Are modifications okay or do you want a stock model?
- Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. While the number of MkIV Supras on the road is decreasing with time, there are still plenty out there in different levels of condition and spec, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.
- Go look at and test drive multiple Toyota Supra MkIVs – It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad fourth generation Toyota Supra.
- Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for a Toyota Supra for sale and only go for promising looking cars.
- Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
- Don’t trust the owner – While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
- Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple cars, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options, and they may try to undercut the price.
- Be prepared to walk away – If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the Toyota Supra or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.
Mileage vs Condition
Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.
Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.
Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.
Service History and Other Documentation
It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Toyota specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work). There are plenty of excellent home mechanics out there, but there are also lots who have more ambition than skill, so keep that in mind if the owner has done a lot of serious work themselves.
The service history will give you a good idea of how the Supra MkIV you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.
If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.
Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.
Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner
- How often do you drive the car?
- When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
- How much oil does it use?
- What oil do you use in the car?
- What parts have been replaced?
- When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
- What’s the compression like?
- What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
- Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed?
- Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
- Is there any money owing on the car?
- Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
- How are the speakers
- Is there any rust?
- Has rust been removed at any point?
- When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
- Where do you store/park the car usually?
There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.
Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a Supra MkIV
Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.
- Overheating problems or blown head gasket
- Significant Crash Damage
- Money owing on the car
- Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
- Excessive amounts of power (you may be happy with this however)
- Bad compression
- Bad resprays
- Significant rust problems
- Engine swaps with non-standard engines
- Significant track use
- Major engine or transmission issues
- Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)
Notes on the Owner
The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their fourth generation Toyota Supra (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute dog of a car. Here are some things to watch out for.
- How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
- Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
- Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
- What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
- How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
- Do they know anything about the Supra MkIV and the model they are selling (do they know it is an RZ, RS-S, SZ, etc.)?
- What can they tell you about previous owners?
- Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
- What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
- What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
- How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
- How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?
If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another Toyota Supra MkIV.
Where to buy a Toyota Supra Mk4
The Toyota Supra Mk4 is fast becoming a classic and they are starting to become a little bit more difficult to find, especially if you are looking for one in good condition or not modified. There are a few different options you can go down when looking to buy a Supra Mk4 and we are going to cover them here.
Find a Supra domestically or in your local area
The first option is to obviously look in your own market or country. This is a great option; however, you may find that there are only a few cars (even less that are worth your time) on the market or that they are very expensive.
The price and availability the Supra will entirely depend on where you live and the current market there. We just had a quick look at our local market in New Zealand and only found automatic or modified Supras that looked a bit past it (at the time of writing).
If you are in no rush to buy a Toyota Supra a good option is to wait and see what comes up over a period of six to twelve months, this will also give you a gauge of what your market is like.
A benefit of buying a Toyota Supra that is already in your market is that you can possibly go and view/drive it much easier. You also don’t have to muck around with importing one and the costs that it entails.
Below we have given you a few examples of where to look for a Supra in your local area:
- Car dealer – You are pretty lucky to find a good Supra that doesn’t cost the world at a car dealer, however it is still an option to look out for.
- Internet – Websites like eBay and Trademe (NZ website) are excellent places to find cars. They are also great places to work out what sort of price range you might be looking at in your local area. You might also have luck with websites such as Reddit and its subreddits or other forums where cars like the Supra are discussed. Many people who own cars like the Toyota Supra will go on these forums to discuss their cars and they may be able to point you in the right direction.
- Owners club – A Toyota owners club or one specific for the Supra is great place to find one. These cars are often well maintained as their owners are usually enthusiasts who take pride in their machines. Most owner’s clubs will have an online presence (website, Facebook page, etc.)
- Facebook groups – Facebook groups relating to the Toyota Supra like this one are great ways to find out if there are any cars available. Bigger buy/sell car groups are also good as well, but just remember that there is a lot if rubbish that gets posted in these groups as well.
- Contacts – Easy one we know, but sometimes you or a friend may know someone who is selling a Supra.
Import a Toyota Supra Mk4
Japan was the Supra’s home market, so if you can’t find one in your country you may want to look at importing one from the land of the rising sun (if your country’s import laws allow it).
How to Import a Toyota Supra Mk4 from Japan
While importing a fourth generation Toyota Supra from Japan may seem a bit daunting, it is actually relatively simple. The first thing we recommend you do is to Google search something like “import Toyota Supra Mk4”. You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for one of these cars based on their age, generation, condition, price and more.
Most of the websites/companies you encounter should be based in Japan, but you may find some other ones that are located in different parts of the world.
Make sure you check reviews/feedback of any website or auction house you want to use. While you are unlikely to get completely scammed, many of these websites will be economical with the truth about a vehicle. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:
JDM Expo – Is an independent subsidiary of Nikko Auto Co., which is recognized as on the most reliable exporters of Japanese cars in the country.
Car From Japan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars.
Japan Partner – Is one of the fastest growing exporters of used Japanese vehicles.
Note: many of these sorts of websites do not provide a grade or auction check sheet. The grade, auction check sheet, and car map are vital to picking a good car. Buyer beware!
Use a Private Importer
While the websites above are a handy way to give you a general idea of what to expect when importing a fourth generation Toyota Supra, we recommend that you go with a private importer. A trusted private importer will be able to find a suitable Supra MkIV for you and import it, saving you the hassle. While it may cost you a bit more (sometimes it is cheaper) you are more likely to get a better vehicle.
You can get a full explanation of why we recommend using a private importer here.
How Does the Japanese Car Grading System Work?
The auction houses and car exporters in Japan all get their vehicles in roughly the same way. The difference between them is how much support they are willing to provide, how honest they are, and how they grade their vehicles
They will provide what is known as an ‘auction check sheet’ – a document that contains most of what you need to know about the vehicle. As you can’t see the vehicle personally, you will have to rely on the check sheet and other information on the listing to make a decision. If the seller/website is not willing to provide you with an auction check sheet or additional information on the car, don’t proceed any further.
Before you make a purchase you need to learn how to read an auction check sheet. The sheet contains information on the make, model, condition, specifications and any other notes. There will be a grade on the sheet that denotes the overall grade of the vehicle.
While the grade on a check sheet is important, you should not rely on it to make a final decision. Different companies have different methods for grading their vehicles, so a grade 4 for one company may be a grade 3.5 for another.
Some websites may use a different grading system and if you can’t view the auction check sheet, you should contact the seller/exporter.
Use the grade to reduce the number of Supra Mk4s you are looking at and then use the check sheet and additionally information to make a decision. We also recommend you pay a third party to check out the car for you if possible (hence the recommendation for a private importer).
The Auction Check Sheet
Below you can see an example of an auction check sheet. The grade is located in the top right corner of the check sheet. You will notice that there is both a letter and a number grade. The number indicates the overall condition of the vehicle, while the letter shows you the interior grade. At the bottom right of the check sheet is the ‘car map’. The car map tells you information about the exterior of a particular Mk4 Toyota Supra and where any problems are located.
Additionally, the sheet contains information about the specs of the vehicle and any modifications (major or minor). The inspector may also write some additional notes about the car.
What Does the Number Grade Mean?
- Grade 7 to 9 or S– New car with delivery miles.
- Grade 6– Same as above but with a few more miles.
- Grade 5– Vehicle is in excellent condition with low miles.
- Grade 4.5– Overall condition is great, but may have up to 160,000 km (100,000 miles) on the clock.
- Grade 4– Overall condition is good, but can have low or high miles.
- Grade 3.5– Similar to grade 4, but some work may be needed and they usually have more miles.
- Grade 3– Can be the same condition as grade 3.5, but with more miles. Alternatively, the car may have lower miles but require more work.
- Grade 2– Very poor condition car and may have significant mechanical or exterior issues. Not necessarily a right off, but you would have to be a brave buyer to purchase one of these.
- Grade 1– Is modified in some way (can be extensive or something simple).
- Grade 0, A, R, RA– Some repair history that can be major or minor.
The Letter Grade
As we wrote earlier, the number grade is usually accompanied by a letter that indicates the interior grade. An ‘A’ indicates that the interior is in exceptional or good condition. A ‘B’ indicates that the car is in average condition, while a ‘C’ displays that it is in poor condition. Grades below C show that the car’s interior is in very poor condition.
The Car Map
The check sheet will also contain what is called a “car map”, which tells you all the information you need to know about the exterior condition of the car. It will show the location of any problems or damage to the vehicle. Any problems are indicated by a letter and a number. The letter tells you what the issue is and the number indicates the severity. You can read more about the car map in our “How to Import a Car from Japan” guide.
Our Guidelines for Importing a Toyota Supra MkIV from Japan
- Always demand to see and have the auction check sheet before making a purchase
- If you can’t read Japanese or the company won’t provide a translated check sheet, get help from somebody who speaks/reads Japanese.
- Try to go through a private importer
- Check that the chassis number on the check sheet matches the one on the frame
- Cross reference the check sheet with other websites
- Don’t rely on the grade (always check the auction sheet thoroughly)
- Investigate each website/service thoroughly (reviews, feedback, etc.)
- Be careful of heavily modified vehicles
- Get someone to inspect the car for you if possible. Ask for photos and get a good run down of the condition.
- Avoid cars with unknown mileages
- Stay away from bargains that seem to be too good to be true
- Stay away from grade 0, A, RA, R vehicles that have been involved in accidents
Know Your Country’s Importation Laws
Always make sure you check your country’s importation laws as you may find you can’t bring the vehicle you want in. For example, some countries have certain restrictions on importing cars under a certain age.
Wrapping Up Our Toyota Supra MkIV Buyer’s Guide
The Toyota Supra Mk4 is one of the most iconic Japanese cars of all time. It has a legendary status and oozes street cred, but finding a good example is becoming more and more difficult. Whether you import a Toyota Supra or buy one domestically, always check the cars condition and take your time.
This is just a quick buyer guide and history of the Toyota Supra Mk4, and there is plenty more information out there. Importing or buying a Toyota Supra for cheap is starting to become a lot more difficult, but the information should get you up to speed on everything you need to know.